A Retirement Primer for Slow Partners

I recently wrote an article titled, “You are Old. We are Greedy.  Get the Hell Out!”  In that article, I lamented the fact that law firms often nudge (or push, or shove) lawyers out of their firms when they hit their sixties. If you did not like that one, you probably will not like this one either, so just keep scrolling.

While I was lamenting that the retiring folks are being deprived of an opportunity to continue to contribute to the profession, the other side of the coin is that as firms show their retiring partners the door, they often make no effort to hold onto their expertise, skills, and contacts. It is as if their entire vision is blocked by declining billings and client origination credits, and they either cannot understand the other value that walks out the door with their former partners, or they think that losing those intangibles is a necessary sacrifice. Or perhaps, they are so anxious to be ‘out with the old and in with the new’ that they undervalue what they are losing.

Perhaps the explanation is simply that law firm partners are a bit slow when it comes to business, and someone has to explain it to them.  So, I got to thinking, why not me? So here goes:

Your retiring partners were with your firm a long time. Some of them did valuable stuff beyond billing. Things like mentoring, training, and marketing.

Some of your ongoing partners: (i) do not have time to do those things; (ii) will not do them because you only pay them for billings and client origination credits; (iii) are not that good at doing those things anyway; (iv) may not be that good at bringing in clients; and (v) have to take time away from billable work to do other things.

Oh, and also, you lose $500.00 to $1,000.00 an hour every time they stop billing to do other stuff.

On the other hand, many of your retiring partners are done with living to maximize income and are looking to slow down but would like to be just a tiny bit busy. They can do that stuff, likely at a fraction of the cost.

And when you find a way to keep those retiring partners on your team, they will do other stuff as well. Like encouraging their clients to stay with you, refer people to you, and generally promote your firm at every opportunity. Or use their knowledge and experience to be an independent sounding board for everything from legal strategy to managing partnership issues. Hell, they may even get their friends to vote for your firm the next time you are trying to ‘win’ one of those stupid marketing awards.

As Ronnie Drew said, “there’s life in the old dog yet.” Think about that before you congratulate yourself for squeezing your next partner out when they go grey.

This article was originally published by Law360 Canada, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

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